When you are reading here whether you found me intentionally or accidently, please take time to leave a comment and let me know where you are and what you are thinking. I love feed back. Vondi

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This isn't our house, just the doors are similar to the ones we got.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. Matt. 6:8

Last year, maybe two years ago, I guess, Rachael and Michael bought a house. They got one appreciably larger than the one they were living in, but they did that especially so they could make a place for me. I have my own huge sitting/bedroom with an attached bath and vanity area and a humongous walk-in closet that I’ve turned into a library! My clothes occupy a singe rod on half of one wall of the closet. The entire back wall is shelving for my books and Michael has promised that he will get shelves installed on the adjacent wall opposite my dresses for the rest of my books.

The house was appraised at a much higher price than was on it because the owner wanted to get it off his hands and there were some minor TLC projects needed. The Lord gave them the house in a matter of probably two hours from the time they gave their realtor the first offer until it was accepted. When the Lord undertakes something, it happens right now!! I believe He blessed the espcially because they were willing to make a home for me.

Michael has done a lot of work on the house to make it what they wanted. He and Rachael were willing to put in the time and labor in building a privacy fence around the big back yard, pulling the ugly bushes out of the front landscaping and replacing them with nice plants, re-arranging and remodeling the kitchen cupboards. And it is beautiful—an investment that will definitely give them an excellent profit when they are ready to sell it.

Anyway, shortly after we moved in we discovered that the one door onto the deck would need replacing soon. It is the one which receives all the weather, rain, snow and sun. When we rearranged the dining room Michael pulled back the carpet and discovered the replacement needed to be done sooner rather than later! ( I say ‘we’ but really it was R & M not including me) The problem is that the big double patio type doors which will match the house cost in the neighborhood of $2000. That is without the framing and threshold and floor replacement that will probably be needed. So it is going to be an appreciable expense. They have been worrying about this ever since last winter, trying to figure out where to find the money for the project without putting the cost on credit cards or a loan.

A few weeks ago some friends from Dover came to visit and during the course of the visit, naturally, R & M showed them around our pretty house. When they went out on the deck, Michael mentioned the problem with the door. I didn’t know, and I don’t think Michael and Rachael knew, but Steve works for a door manufacturing company! He said that periodically the employees can pick up returned doors or one that has a minor cosmetic defect for a greatly reduced price! He volunteered to see if he could get one for us! How great is that!

He said he would ask his boss about getting one the next time a set of double doors became available!

When he spoke to his boss about it, I guess, the man wasn’t too encouraging and said they didn’t have a lot of those type doors come back. Steve said he would just wait and see.

WELL! That man doesn’t know how our Lord works! Just last week a door was returned! Steve called to say the door had been returned because it didn’t fit the space that it had been ordered for! He could have it for about ¼ of the retail cost! I was so blessed! How the Lord supplies our needs in just the right time! And we hadn’t even made it a serious matter of prayer- just left it there before Him.

The Lord has blessed me that way over and over and over during the years. He has supplied all kinds of needs just in the nick of time. He has fixed cars and typewriters and healed kids and puppies and guinea pigs. He protected me driving five miles with a broken tie rod on my steering. We serve a wonderful Lord.

I’m posting a picture of doors which look like ours. When Ours are in I’ll post a picture of them!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the state of the backslider

I have recently come to realize how desperate the situation is for those who play fast and loose with God. I was raised to understand that serving the Lord was an ultimately serious proposition. My mom and dad managed to instill in me a fear of disobeying God and to regard walking according to His Will as the only option for happiness in this life.

I have always known that backsliding was a possibility but for me it was never even a consideration. Living for God was the only way I ever really saw. Because I was raised in the Church and my parents’ friends were close to God I never met many backsliders. For me growing up as a grantedly naïve child and teenager there were only two groups of people in the world—the born again child of God and the sinner. I even came to see from an early age that there were many religious professors in life. These were men and women who went to church and made a show of being good ‘Christians’ but followed false doctrine that allowed them to salve their conscience by believing they could follow after sin and still be saved. They still fell into the category as sinners and I guess I ‘excused’ them on that basis.

As I got older I met those who had once walked with the Lord and had then for reasons that they considered acceptable had chosen to go their own way. I never had much association with these folks although I came into contact with them. Most of them were frankly not right with God and acknowledged it. A few had gone into false religion and still maintained a profession but openly and unrepentantly lived in sin. And I came to see that backsliding is really a possibility in life. I’ve met many who say that “once saved-always saved,” but from my own observation I know this is not true. Others say that if someone has apparently ‘backslid’ they were never truly saved to start with. I have seen with my own eyes that this is not true either.

I remember once there was a young man who was on fire for the Lord who attended campmeeting from further east. I became good friends with his sister and knew brother Dan only through that connection. I wasn’t close to him at all. However, even in the peripheral contact I had with him, it was evident that he was close to the Lord. His sister and family, those who most often are the most critical of our Christian walk, respected his experience in the Lord. He was older that his sister and I were—perhaps six or seven years. He was called to the ministry and for ten or twelve years pastored a congregation, used of God to teach a people righteousness and holiness. He was saved and used of God beyond any doubt. And suddenly one year his family reported that he had run away with another woman leaving his wife and several kids! What a shock. He had deliberately chosen to walk away from the Lord and His standards of life! He backslid. There was no other way to state the facts.

He passed from my immediate frame of reference after that. I had been on the mission, then married, pursuing my own life and haven’t seen his sister in years. I believe I heard he had repented and been saved again but had never regained his previous position with God.

Now in my retirement I’ve been blessed to witness the overwhelming peril backsliding puts on a soul. In my naïveté I thought that the backslider could merely come back to Christ and repent and be born again. Simple matter.

Now I've come to have a tremendous fear for those who might backslide. I feel that maybe the congregations of the Church of God don’t have a heavy enough burden for those who have backslidden. I think that too often we take the attitude “well they know what they have to do” and we are just a little bit callous toward them, maybe even unforgiving. There is a little bit, or maybe more than a little bit, of the attitude that they have made their bed and now they just have to sleep in it! Over the last couple years the Lord has set several backsliders in my way and called me to counsel with them. My burden for them has grown with every word we have exchanged. My fear for others who might be contemplating backsliding has grown to where my heart aches.

Backsliding is not a loose matter, brothers and sisters! It slams the man or woman into a pit of his own making and the route out of that despair is an arduous one! I’ve heard over and over, “God doesn’t hear me! I pray and pray and God just isn’t there! I want to be back with Him and He just doesn’t answer!”

What an awful state! Can you imagine the awful desolation of not hearing from God! OH! It shakes me to my toes! This is the course we choose when we decide to take that first step away from Him and into our own will.

We don’t hear preaching on backsliding as the Lord has been laying it on me. We don’t hear the man of God making the state of the backslider plain. At least I never heard those sermons and I’ve sat under much good solid preaching in 65 years. Yes, I heard preaching on how them backslider must return to God if he ever expects to make heaven his home. I heard preaching on how black his heart has become when he walks away from God. I heard thunderings from the Old Testament speaking out God’s punishement for the backsliders. And I know the texts: Jeremiah 49:3-5; Hosea 11:6-8; Jeremiah 8:4-6; Jeremiah 3:7-9; Jeremiah 5:6 and others. I’ve heard God's threats of condemnation for the backslider, but I’ve never heard preached how dangerous it is or how difficult it is to regain your salvation once you have walked away. I’ve never heard how the backslider prays to a brazen sky and how much heartache and desolation he must suffer to come back to God.

We often hear the story of the prodigal son cited to tell how the Lord will receive the backslider back into his House. We are told how the son in arrogance demanded his inheritance and how foolishly he went his way and spent it in sinful living. We are told of how he came to a bad end and when he was sitting in the pig pen he ‘came to himself’ and determined to go back to his father. We are told how the father saw him coming ‘afar off’ and ran to meet him.

What is skimmed over lightly is the journey of the prodigal son back to His Father’s House. We are not told how easy or difficult it must have been, but only consider: He was sitting in a pig pen and had so little that he was eating the same food that was given to the pigs. We know he had traveled away from home on his apparently large inheritance. We don’t know how far he went, but when we think of young people wanting to get away from the strictures of home and parents, we can conclude it was quite a distance. He had no money for traveling expenses. He had no clothing to protect him from the elements. He had no food nor any strength to make the journey.

So think how much heartache and privation and pain and struggle must have been involved for him to travel that physical distance from the pig sty to the Father’s House. The backslider has the same struggle to travel the spiritual distance he has placed between him and God. The prodigal made the journey that took him far away from the Father. The backslider makes the journey that takes him away from God. The same distance he traveled in licentiousness and sin must now be travelled in sorrow and pain. There is no magic mantra that takes him twinkling back into the Father's presence. I never thought of it before but these last few days have made me dwell on the circumstances. It is a heartbreaking and difficult journey back to God and although the Lord will meet the backslider joyfully the journey still has to be made by the one returning to God. It is not easy.

Recently one person said to me, “Oh if only I had someone who could pray for me.” She was not meaning someone to make intercession for her but someone who knew God and could express her heartache to Him for her, who could beg Him for her to accept her prayers again! That settled hard on my heart! Are we doing that, Church? Are we carrying a burden to the place where we can intercede on the backslider’s behalf? Are we burdened to the place where our heart aches for the backslider? Can they come to us and say, ‘tell God for me how sorry I am and ask will He please listen to me again” There is a crying need for that kind of compassion.

I’m not saying we should overlook sins. I’m not saying we should accept shallow-oh-I’m-so-sorry-kind of prayers. I knew one woman once who treated it as a routine almost. She had the process down pat. She sinned freely, just coming back to mouth the words of repentance assuming she would be reinstated in God’s grace. It doesn’t work that way. For the backslider to return to God and be accepted there must be absolute sorrow and turning from sin.

Maybe we in the Church need to shake out our robes of righteousness that have been tucked up tight around our shoulders. Maybe we need to loosen them to the place where the backslider can reach out and clutch them in his despair. And maybe we need to stop being so sanctimonious about the backslider and the choices he has made.

Yes, we each one choose the path we take. And the backslider chose to walk away from God. But we must be open to share a burden for the sincere backslider who is struggling to return to God. It is easy to walk away and very very difficult to climb back out of the pit of despair the backslider has made for himself. Yes, the position can be taken that he deserves it, but that is most certainly an un-Christlike attitude. Those who are burdened by their sin and have a desire to return to God have, in most cases, paid dearly for their sinful choices. Let’s have a burden for them. Let’s be willing to help those who are struggling to return.

And might we take a lesson from these who have such a struggle to get back to God. Backsliding is a simple thing, but returning to God isn’t so easy. It should be a lesson to us. This fabulous treasure that we hold in our earthen vessel is precious but it can be easily discarded or lost. Finding it again is much more difficult that losing it. Let’s guard it with our very life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Holding Up the 'Standard of Holiness"

Let me say right off that I DO believe in the necessity of holiness in our lives. Although I don’t find “a Standard” discussed in the New Testament, I do find repeated instructions that we are to live a life free of sin. If we look in the Word we find several specific lists of sins of which we are not to partake if we are to be one of God's Own. ( Gal. 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-7; I Cor. 6:9-11) We also find additional admonitions regarding how we are to live a life of righteousness. We call these ‘standards’ and apply various Old Testament scriptures to support using that term. Technically, the usage of the term ‘standard’ in the OT refers to a banner or iconic emblem displayed on the top of a rod or staff signifying a specific area of authority. We use the same word ‘standard,’ in one its alternative definitions, to mean a principle of excellence in saintly conduct. That principle of excellence doesn’t change, but it is administered by the Lord. There is also a imperative found in the Word for us to bear witness to that principle of excellence in our lives in a daily basis.

We speak often of the need for us to ‘hold up a standard’ against the enemy. This many times becomes the focus of much conflict among those who confess Christ as Savior. I believe that the conflict derives from the idea that WE are mandated to ‘hold up the standard” i.e. demand that all men and women who call themselves children of God comply with our own particular standard. This has resulted in a myriad of splinter groups among the church. (I’m not talking about false doctrine or Babylon here, but only among those who understand and teach salvation, freedom for sin and the Church as presented in the Bible) One group will not fellowship or accept into the local fellowship any who don’t maintain a certain style of dress. Another will not accept those who use instruments in their worship. Another requires certain standards of hair on men and women. Another mandates which holidays can be celebrated and how the celebrations may take place.

One of the things the internet has done is to allow friendships and yes, real relationships, with other people of God not in their area. (Of course, I’m not talking ridiculous dating sites and relationship sites that pander to the flesh.) There are myriads of bible discussion groups and study groups that accept members freely. I’ve visited many of them. Some have a very worldly and sectarian spirit that is not of God at all. Others evidence a loving and Christ-like spirit. Even online, it is immediately evident to the discerning saint whether or not the spirit is of the Lord. It is usually quite a while after I’ve been discussing Bible topics that I have an opportunity to discover what we like to call "Bible standards” as they might be lived among the ones I shared with so long. I have come to realize that when the visual aspects are non-existent (when we can’t see the style of dress, the length of hair or facial hair, the presence of musical instruments or jewelry or Christmas decorations, etc etc) we can meet in full and sweet fellowship.

I experienced this very thing once sometime ago. I had been connected with a sister through a mutual friend. We had shared much in the Lordof our burdens, joys, and triumphs. I considered her my sister in the Lord with no reservations. After a fairly lengthy time I had occasion to meet some members of her congregation. We talked for quite a while, but there was much constraint on the part of the members and my every reference to burdens or blessings of God met a brick wall.

I attribute this attitude on their part to two conditions. First, although for much of my life I wore my hair very long, in recent years my physical situation has mandated a shorter hair style. No one in any way, meeting me or seeing my photo could ever mistake me for a man, but my hair is not as long as it once was, nor as long as many preachers require of their women. Secondly, a close friend had on that same day given me a piece of jewelry. They gave it in love and probably at some sacrifice. To their joy, I put it on and wore it. Although I do not wear jewelry, I would not have thrown that loving gift back in their face for anything in the world. I believe my influence on their life would have been tremendously hindered by that action. It hurt nothing for me to wear it for a few hours and then put it away when I returned home. It still remains in the box in a safe place, a concrete memento of their affection. With no information other than these two visual facts, the congregation members relegated me to a position unworthy of their “Christian” regard.

In the days and weeks following this meeting the sister that I loved ceased to communicate with me. My emails and little bible study excerpts that previously we had shared back and forth now fell into empty space. After some length of time, the sister worked her way through the report she received from the members who had met me. She was able to balance the spirit we had shared and the attitude from the members. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. (I John 4:17) She began corresponding with me again. We have returned to the joy we once shared.

I’ve said that all to illustrate that fellowship is not dependent on how we dress (within the confines of modesty), nor whether we play music in church or wear a certain piece of jewelry. Fellowship must come from a shared Spirit within us. That is not to say we may abandon all of the ‘standards’ the Holy Spirit has made evident to us. If the Lord has laid His Hand upon our hearts individually, and impressed us that a certain style of dress or lifestyle is not acceptable to Him we had better not be pursuing it. If we continue in it we will lose our salvation. However, it is not our responsibility to impose that lifestyle on others. It is our responsibility to witness of the Lord’s leading and to testify of the joy and blessing that comes from carrying out His Will, but it is NOT our responsibility to demand others maintain it under the risk of being cut off from our fellowship.

Finally, as I studied on this I read many scriptures in the Old Testament regarding the setting of the banners or device attached to a pole that indicated the rallying point of a military group. The only verse that I found which really alluded to a kind of action or force was in Isaiah 59: 18-20. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. 20And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. How wonderful is this! When we fear the Lord and live righteously before Him, HE, HE, HE will lift up the standard against the enemy—not against people notice, but against the Enemy, Satan. All we need to do is live as He has directed us personally and individually. The Lord will do the lifting of the Standard.

Let’s stop worrying so much about holding others accountable to our perceived standard of Holiness. Let’s worry more about holding ourselves to the Standard God has revealed to us personally! When we do that our lives will be a witness that draws others to Him. We need not say or demand anything.

Monday, July 12, 2010

living free from sin

I found a fantastic blog where there was a discussion on whether or not Christians should really still refer to themselves as 'sinners'. I grow very weary of hearing christians refer to themselves as "a sinner saved by grace." Now I was a sinner and I was saved by grace, but I am no longer a 'sinner'. Now I am a child of God, an heir of God and Joint heir with Jesus Christ! We were dead in trespasses and sin, but now we are alive through Christ Jesus. I Corinthians 6:11 Praise the Lord.

So this comment was posted by a brother who I will designate only by the name, Adriano, since I dont have permission to share his full name.

Let us consider Gal 2:17 & 20 in the NT study of whether Christians ought to call themselves sinners. Paul is saying that if we are found sinners we’re making Christ a minister of sin. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.. . 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Many professing Christians confess they are still sinners, being taught by their pastors and many others. Believers who understand the Bible should see themseves as washed by Jesus’precious blood and are holy, spotless, without wrinkle as they continue in His love (obeying His commands) and therefore ready anytime He comes for them.

Sadly, some are taught to believe they are still sinners and are powerless against the bondage of sin and are not ready for His coming. To deliver us from the penalty and the power of sin, Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and rose again. This is the gospel. He did it, not for Himself being sinless, but for us who were once sinners.

To appropriate for ourselves what He did, we must believe that when He was crucified, we were crucified, when He died we died, when He was buried we were buried with him and when He arose we rose with Him in the newness of life. Romans 6. We can say with Paul. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. (Gal2: 20)

In John 8:34 Jesus said, He that commits sin is a servant of sin ( a sinner). The new man who rose with Christ from the dead is a servant of righteousness not sin ( which John mentions in 1 John 1:8).

The just shall live by faith. By faith we as believers identify ourselves with what Jesus did on the cross. Now having been raised in the newness of life, every moment of our life we should use our eyes ,hands, minds and our entire body to do things righteously. Of course, we only do that by rhe Power of His Spirit that He gave us.(Rom.8:11)

His love now shed abroad in our hearts should motivate how we walk each moment of our daily life. Sin, though still possible in this body, has lost its power to the believer who is yielded to the Spirit of God.

In summary, a believer who continues to abide in Jesus is not a sinner anymore but a saint (sanctified by the Blood), righteous (justified by faith), holy (living free from the bondage of sin, spotless purged from an evil conscience), a vessel ready for the Master’s use and ready for His soon coming with clouds of glory.

How fantastic is that! Doesn't it make you heart rejoice! There's a song and I can't find it any where online to post for you, but it goes, "I'm not a sinner any more, I've been washed in Jesus Blood that He shed up on the cross of calvary. He paid the price, He bought my soul! By His blood he made me whole! Oh praise the Lord I'm not a sinner any more."

I am so glad that we can, by His power, leave the days of sin-I-will,-sin-I-must, sin-I-can't-help-myself behind and rejoice in Victory through Jesus!